Meaning of Obstacles

Symbolic Meaning of Obstacles: Tips to Cope With Challenges

Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Avia

Thoughts About Looking at the Meaning of Obstacles and Ways to Cope With Challenges: You can’t get out of this life without facing some challenges now and again.  And any coach or guidance expert will tell you it’s how we perceive challenges and what we do with them that makes all the difference in our life trajectory.  There are many different ways to cope with challenges. I might not be the world’s greatest expert, but like you, I’ve been through my share of hardships. 

Furthermore, I’ve helped a lot of people over the years perceive the meaning of obstacles in a different light.  Truly, viewing problems differently and handling them with mindfulness can be incredibly transformative. From legal issues to family squabbles, we can always see a different meaning of obstacles in our lives to cope more effectively. So, here are a few tips about ways to cope with challenges and insights into the symbolic meaning of obstacles.

The Reality of Obstacles

Before jumping into the meaning of obstacles and how to overcome them, let’s take a look at the reality of hindrances in life. We all know what an obstacle is, but many of us might have an unrealistic or skewed idea about them. Many of us might be slapped with a roadblock in life and are induced into a panic attack or go into a fit.  I know I have at times.  Well, to be brutally honest, I’ve been known to curse like a sailor when I get side-blinded by obstacles.  That’s totally understandable.  Bad stuff happens and it’s natural to have a less-that-cool-as-a-cucumber reaction when doo-doo hits the fan.

However, what if we viewed obstacles differently?  What if, for every hiccup in our life’s giddyup we said “Yeehaw! This might be the beginning of a kickass rodeo in my life!”  It’s important to note that every setback or glitch has the potential for something terrific. 

“Stuff happens. Whether it is good or bad is solely up to your perspective and attention.”


Can you remember a time in your life when things went spectacularly wrong – only to find out in the long run – that epically failed moment actually worked in your favor?  This happens to me often.  I’ll look back in my life, and if that financial ruin hadn’t happened in my life, then I wouldn’t have had the business opportunities I have today.  Or, I wouldn’t have evolved, learned, and grown to develop this website to a better level.  You get the idea.  Death, divorce, financial devastation – these aren’t obstacles we welcome in life – but they are a reality. 

So, think about reassessing the reality of the meaning of obstacles. View them as opportunities for growth instead of events working against you.  Being unrealistic, overly dramatic, or having a dour attitude about obstacles makes them much more difficult to overcome. In turn, seeing hardships in a sour light makes it harder to transform them into achievements and successes.  

With that in mind, the reality of obstacles is that they are potentially not all bad.  This might sound like a radical point of view, but it’s true.  Stuff happens – if it is good or bad – that’s up to your perspective.  Recognizing the yin and yang of a hindrance or snafu will help you overcome the obstacle effectively and will assist you in turning a negative into a positive.

Reassessing the Meaning of Obstacles
Reassessing the Meaning of Obstacles

A Note About Personal Responsibility and Guilt

Some obstacles are avoidable and some are not.  Yeah, that’s a no-brainer. But I mention this because when things go pear-shaped many folks might go into guilt-mode. Guilt is certainly my knee-jerk response when things get off the rails.  I know why that is for me, and I work on reforming that emotional habit.  However, because I’m still like that (after decades of emotional reprogramming) I’m uniquely qualified to offer comfort to those of you who were born with a guilty conscience as I was.

What I’m trying to say here is – when bad stuff happens, you are not always responsible.  However, you ARE 100% responsible for your reaction and response to obstacles thrown into the mix of life.  You can’t change the reality that tragedy happens – but you can change how you perceive the reality.  Try your very best to avoid the “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.”  You can’t change what happened and you can’t change the fact that it happened.  Therefore, don’t rent your precious mind space out to feelings of guilt.

On the flip-side, if you are responsible for the obstacles – do your best to rectify them.  Take responsibility for the role you played in the event.  I’ll give you an example.  That financial ruin I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that was legit my fault.  I took responsibility for it, paid the price, and still working hard to move through it.  Say you’re sorry if you were wrong.  Do your best to improve the situation.  Work hard and with integrity to make amends.  That’s all we can do when the bottom drops out from poor choices or less-than-ideal actions we’ve taken in life. And give yourself a break. We all make mistakes that lead to obstacles. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but DO take action to do your best to make corrections to the situation if you are truly at fault.

Another Note: Avoid The Nefarious Pity Party

It’s easy to pour the wine and throw a pity party when the promotion doesn’t come, or our plans don’t pan out.  I get that.  However, self-pity is a big baddy of a trap that should be avoided at all costs. Why? Because self-pity is a tarpit of a disaster. Once you get sucked into it, it’s a bear to pull out of it.  Furthermore, self-pity breeds into a more complaining and neggy-nellie mentality. 

Maybe you know of someone in your life who is constantly bitching about their lot.  Sure, their circumstances and obstacles are painful. But for the love of Pete – don’t you just want to tell these people to shut their yaps and take a look at the awesome, good stuff that’s all around them?  These folks are in an endless loop of pity-party madness.  They’ve started with a setback and allowed it to snowball throughout their entire life-view. This causes them to moan about everything that is wrong, and neglect anything that might be going right.

Don’t be a victim of a pity party, because it is not fun and it can be emotionally lethal for you (and others who have to deal with your toxic energy).  Thwart the temptation of the “woe is me” party by appreciating what you DO have in the midst of obstacles and challenges.  Even if it’s a fabulous cup of coffee, or petting your dog, or seeing a smile on your child’s face.  Find things to be grateful for.  Get into an attitude of gratitude.  This will offset the pity blues. Your efforts to handle challenges will be far better rewarded if you focus on appreciation rather than the “look at how miserable my life is” mentality.

Overcoming Obstacles and Coping with Challenges
Overcoming Obstacles and Coping with Challenges

Hocus, Focus, Pocus: A Lesson on Reassessing Obstacles From a Mom in a Grocery Store

Whenever an obstacle comes your way, it is important to be mindful of your focus. To illustrate, let me offer this scenario.  Once upon a time, I was observing a mom and her 4 kids while waiting to check out at the grocery store. Her young kids accidentally toppled over and annihilated an entire store display.  As you might imagine, total pandemonium broke out. 

In that heated moment, the mom calmly, yet firmly called out to her kids, “Hocus, Pocus, Focus!”  Her wee tykes were obviously trained by this voice command, because they immediately stopped, redirected their attention, and refocused.  The next moment was brilliant.  The kids got instantly re-centered and began picking up the disaster of Dorito bags strewn all over the store aisle.

That memory always sticks with me when I ponder the meaning of obstacles and better ways to handle them.  With just a few words or a few adjustments to our mentality and perspectives – we can start maturely dealing with obstacles rather than being consumed by them.  Using this example, we can keep calmer heads and clean up our mess (like those focused 4 kids did) instead of screaming or crying over spilled Doritos.

Pondering the Positives and Negatives of Obstacles

There are two sides to every obstacle.  If you only focus on the negatives, it’s a good bet you’re going to get overwhelmed, depressed, or downright distraught.  This makes it far more difficult to move through the situation.

However, if you look at the negatives and the positives, you see the obstacle in a much more realistic light. This realistic understanding of obstacles allows you to think rationally and clearly about the tasks at hand required to cope with challenges. From there, you can begin to overcome your obstacle instead of getting swallowed up by it.

Furthermore, a positive perspective about hard times tends to diminish the negatives in the situation.  It’s all how you tip the scales. The more uplifting and affirmative your view of the problem – the more you reduce the negative energy and gain the power to cope with challenges.  This will make it much easier and more enjoyable to deal with your obstacles, even if you aren’t necessarily succeeding as fast as you expect.

Understanding the Meaning of Obstacles
Understanding the Meaning of Obstacles

The Purpose of Negativity: Leveraging Obstacles

Now, all this talk about positivity isn’t meant to come across as all airy-fairy.  No matter how positive your outlook is, if you get into an accident, or don’t get that dream job you wanted – that’s obviously a big fat bummer.  Challenges don’t feel good, and they can naturally bring your vibe down. 

However, rather than get caught up in the negatives, just be aware of them so that you know how to best go about your situation and overcome the obstacle. Whenever you are aware of the negatives, more power is given back to you.  Essentially you are leveraging the negativity to guide you into solutions.

As a result, you can begin to master the obstacle because the negatives are rational, reasonable, and manageable. Acknowledging them simply makes them less scary. The exact negatives of the obstacle will depend on the challenge. For example, your obstacle might be finding a new job.

In this case, the negatives might be that you are under financial stress, need to move, or something else related to the new job is putting a thorn in your side. In this case, I say this: I have a love-hate relationship with the statement: “It is what it is” But when it comes to poop coming down the pike and getting our grit on to handle it – sometimes you’ve got to get down to those brass tacks. Being open and honest about the potentially terrifying stuff going on in life will prepare you to handle it with loins girded and allow you to truly step up to the plate. Face it.

The negative influence of an obstacle is meant to point out that things are not in harmony. This gives you an opportunity to shift the energy in your favor.  For instance, if a situation negatively affects you emotionally, mentally, or physically – that negativity is your natural alert system.  Acknowledge it, and make adjustments.  Remember, that every time you find yourself in a new obstacle, you are forced to challenge yourself to grow as a person.

Ways to Cope With Challenges
Ways to Cope With Challenges

The Positive Effects of Obstacles

We’ve discussed the importance of keeping a positive outlook in terms of assessing the meaning of obstacles.  But the reality is that tons of beneficial outcomes can come out of challenges and problems.  The positives will help you overcome barriers, stay motivated, and enjoy the process better. Here are a few natural consequences that could potentially result from managing and coping with hard times.

Personal Growth

The biggest positive of any obstacle is that it challenges you to grow. Even though challenges come with a lot of effort and hard work, it is the only way for you to become the person you want to be. In other words, challenges make you a better person. Some obstacles may make you physically better, such as an unprecedented health scare, while others will make you emotionally more resilient. It doesn’t matter how the obstacle makes you grow. What matters is that you evolve, develop, and become a better person at the end of it all.


Another benefit of coming out healthily on the other side of obstacles is that you get to know yourself better. We are often trained to get to know our friends, family members, or coworkers, but we often forget about knowing ourselves. This makes it more difficult for us to trust our intuition, our own instinct, or maybe even identify what we want out of our lives. Obstacles force us to reflect on ourselves and the world. It teaches us about ourselves on a deep level.  In essence, challenges expose us to our true strengths as well as help us accept our weaknesses or limitation.  This allows us to get to know ourselves in a way that would not be possible without the roadblocks we’re dealing with on our path.


As we move through challenges in mature, mindful ways we see the fruits of our labor.  We get to know ourselves as whole humans who are capable of facing problems.  As a result, our self-esteem begins to blossom.  Self-esteem is what helps us to know our value outside of our accomplishments and talents. Confidence and self-esteem are crucially necessary for a happy and functioning life. Oddly, some of your darkest moments can lead to the most revolutionary self-growth & boost in self-esteem.

Enhances Relationships

If you’ve endured setbacks and obstacles in relationships, perhaps you’ve noticed that your bond becomes stronger through the conflicts.  Shared hardships tend to forge some of the strongest and most trusted relationships. As you go through obstacles, you become more empathetic and able to communicate with other people in similar situations. This gives you supreme advantages in solidifying partnerships and enhancing relationships.

The Good, Bad, and Awesome Behind Obstacles

Yes. You’re right. Bad stuff isn’t fun. It causes pain and strife.  Challenges can leave you exhausted and at your wit’s end.  However, when you take a close look at the meaning of obstacles – your whole approach can shift.  As someone who has found herself in some pretty unbelievable pickles, I can testify.  Challenges aren’t easy – but I think they are designed that way.  Why? Because facing the tough times with mindfulness can expose a whole new you…maybe even a new, awesome way of living and coping through tough times.  I hope these insights on how to handle the hard stuff in life by rethinking challenges and the meaning of obstacles prove helpful to you.  As always, thank you for reading!

Mighty brightly,

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